Bat Flip Crazy

 

In baseball, as with most sports, there are unwritten rules of the game.

 

For instance, you should never talk to a pitcher when he is throwing a no-hitter, or don’t hit-and-run when the count is 0-2. When it comes to sportsmanship, there are debates galore on what is considered to be appropriate or inappropriate. One in particular that seems to have current and former players buzzing is the art, or disgrace for some, of bat flipping.

 

While bat flipping is not new to the sport, it has become more prominent in recent years among some of the sports rising stars à la outfielder Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.

 

In case you are not familiar with the action of which I’m referencing, allow me to provide you with a clip of Puig and one of his signature bat flips:

 

 

 

 (video courtesy of TBS Sports/YouTube User “LilCee354”)

As you can see in the video above, fans for the most part seem to enjoy it, as usually a bat flip follows when a batter knows the hit is a home run. But as fun as bat flipping can be, there have been instances where the action has caused quite the opposite effect.

A perfect example of this would be Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista’s “Bat Flip Heard ‘Round the World”. I’ll set the stage for you.

It was game five of the American League Divisional Series between the Jays and the Texas Rangers last year. With the score tied in the seventh inning at 3-3, Bautitsta launched a three-run rocket to take the lead, and the rest is, as they say, is history.

 

 

 

(Full clip of Bautista’s bat flip, and the craziness that followed. Video Courtesy of Fox Sports/YouTube User “Captain Canada”)

Flipping Out

Since then, there has been somewhat of a line in the sand drawn between players.

Speaking out against Bautista’s bat flip, Hall of Fame and former New York Yankees relief pitcher “Goose” Gossage was quoted by ESPN’s Andrew Marchand as saying:

Bautista is a —-ing disgrace to the game,” Gossage told ESPN. “He’s embarrassing to all the Latin players, whoever played before him. Throwing his bat and acting like a fool, like all those guys in Toronto. [Yoenis] Cespedes , same thing.

Bautista took the higher road in response to Gossage’ criticism:

He’s a great ambassador for the game,” Bautista told ESPN after being informed of Gossage’s comments. “I don’t agree with him. I’m disappointed that he made those comments, but I’m not going to get into it with him. I would never say anything about him, no matter what he said about me. I have too much good stuff to worry about his comments. Today is my first game [of the spring], getting ready for a new season; hopefully, we will whoop some more a**.

Gossage was later quoted as stating

Everything is good,” Gossage told reporters. “I lost my mind for a minute.

Goose isn’t the only Hall of Famer who has an issue with this “new fangled” celebration. Per Mike Axisa of MLB.com, former Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench spoke out earlier this spring in regards to Bryce Harper flipping his bat, as well as Harper’s comments on how baseball has become a “tired sport”.

Below is a transcript courtesy of Randy Miller (NJ.com) and the Rich Eisen Show where Bench made the following statements:

You can flip your bat. We had guys do that … and the next time up there was chin music. And if you want to play that way, that’s fine.

“Bring back the excitement? OK, we’ll bring back the brushback pitch, the knockdown pitch. That’s all part of the excitement.”

“I know a lot of the old-timers and a lot of people who watched baseball forever would love to see somebody have a little chin music (as retaliation),” Bench said. “If you want to do that, fine. Flip the bat, run around any way you want, but just expect the next time you come up to the plate, you better watching how much you dig into that batter’s box.

 

It is not just players from the past who are commenting, though, as Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout was recently qouted saying “you will never catch him flipping his bat”.

 

This of course, is not to assume that Trout agrees with either Gossage or Bench, though the Halo’s outfielder is probably the poster boy for baseball purists.

 

On the other side of that previously mentioned line in the sand are veteran sluggers like Boston Red Sox designated hitter David “Big Papi” Oritz. In a recent interview with the Boston Globe’s own Alex Speier, Papi had this to say on the matter:

 

People want to talk about old school. I am old school,” said Ortiz. “How many [expletives] are in the game right now who played in 1997 in the big leagues?

“This game is competition. This ain’t no baby-sitting. There ain’t no crying. When somebody strikes me out, I’m not up there crying, like, ‘Boo-hoo . . . this guy’ . . . No, no, no. There’s none of that. There’s no babysitting in baseball. There’s no babysitting. If you’re going to take it like a baby, I’m going to take [you] deep again. How about that? Take it like a man and make better, quality pitches the next time I face you, and then you get [me] out, and then you do whatever the h— you want. This is competition.”

“Respect? Respect my [expletive]. I don’t have to respect nobody when I’m between those two lines. I’m trying to beat everybody when I’m between those two lines. This ain’t no crying. There’s no, ‘Let me be concerned about taking you deep.’ No.

 

As you can see, there are two schools of thought when it comes to bat flipping. This is certainly something worth keeping track of in 2016, as it will be intriguing to see who does or does not flip their bat.

 

Final Thoughts:

I personally have no issues with athletes celebrating such things as home runs, slam dunks, slap shots, or touch downs. Of course, practicing humility every once and a while is good too.

That being said, I could not resist closing this post with a walk-off bat flip clip…Korean style:

 

(Video courtesy of YouTube User “mybonet”/www.mykbo.net)

 

 

 

 

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A.L. MVP Race

The A.L. MVP Race has been narrowed down to three candidates, in my opinion, and neither of them are pitchers. I would like to give Chris Archer and Sonny Gray a big nod towards the MVP race, but they will be fighting it out for A.L. Cy Young this year, and honestly, it’s down to just those two. I can’t think of a third candidate that will compare this year.

A lot of people have different views on “MVP”, is it someone that is putting up numbers and performing at a level that no one else is? Is it someone that is the reason the team is where they are? In other words, is it someone who is the best in baseball, or is it the most valuable player to this players team? I go back and forth myself, but in the end, I think it’s someone who is in both conversations. My MVP is a player who could be plugged into any team and instantly makes them a contending team, Miguel Cabrera could be the MVP every year if he never gets injured, he could play for the Phillies and somehow people will have a sense of hope that the team is a contender every year he is on the roster. So who had the MVP year in 2015?


Nelson Cruz: The best thing to happen to the Mariners this year, Nelson Cruz has always been able to crush the ball, and draw his walks because of the fear of what he might do at the plate. This year though, that’s not the case. He is having a career year, on path to hit more then 40 home runs, gather around 100 RBI’s, 170+ hits, 20+ go ahead hits, 300+ total bases, .750+ offensive winning percentage. The list of his accomplishments go on and on. The only month that Cruz was slumping was in June, and everyone in the MVP race has had a slumping month, but June was a bit ugly for Cruz, posting a slash line of .239/.323/.307. It was the only month where he didn’t post an OPS over 1. What has me saying Cruz is my 2015 AL MVP is that his fielding has been about average, which no one would have predicted when he came to Seattle, everyone assumed he was going to be a full time DH and play just a little in right field. When his manager Lloyd McClendon said that he would be playing a lot in the outfield, everyone scratched their head asking themselves, “why would you risk your best hitter getting injured at something that isn’t his strongest skill?”. Well, Cruz certainly proved those critics wrong this year, playing 71 games in the outfield, with a fielding percentage of .979, committing only 3 errors out of the 141 defensive chances.

The downside to his career year is his team, they didn’t perform nearly half as well as he did all season. If the Mariners were contending for a playoff spot, then he would be the front runner for MVP, hands down. Every talking head would speak of how Cruz was the best thing to happen to Seattle since Griffey. So it’s sad that the team Cruz is playing for is the reason his MVP season might not be labeled as a “MVP Season”. Take a look at his offensive ranking this year and see if that doesn’t change your mind to give the nod to Cruz this year.

Offensive WAR: 6.1 (2nd)
Batting Average: .320 (4th)
Slugging: .604 (1st)
OPS: .993 (2nd)
Hits: 150 (2nd)
Total Bases: 276 (1st)
Home Runs: 36 (1st)
RBI: 75 (7th)
Adj. Batting Wins: 4.7 (1st)
Extra Base Hits: 57 (4th)
Times on Base: 196 (3rd)
Runs Created: 109 (1st)
Offensive Winning Percentage: .794 (1st)
Intentional BB’s: 7 (4th)
AB per HR: 12.7 (3rd)
WPA: 4.9 (1st)


Josh Donaldson: The front runner for the trophy, Josh has been producing both, offensively and defensively all season, a little bit of a June hiccup, but not as bad as Cruz’s June or Trout’s August.  Even in his worst month, it would be anybody else’s good month, hitting .269 with 3 HR, 10 RBI, 8 walks and 8 extra base hits. He is making right or left hand match ups look like a joke, hitting .291 against right handed pitching, .347 against left handers, and 26 of his 34 home runs have come against right handed pitching.

Losing out to Kyle Seager last year for the Gold Glove, this year it looks like Donaldson will be a lock. Manny Machado would probably be the runner up if that helps anyone sleep at night. Donaldson also has a harder job given his stadium, Rodgers Stadium still using Astro Turf/GameDay Grass 3D and only Tropicana Field uses the same playing surface, so the ball doesn’t get to slow down if hit to any of the infielders, and Donaldson still ranks 1st in putouts at 3B with 104, and 3rd place in errors with only 16.

He is the first to 100 RBI’s and is still raking, and has plenty of time left to keep adding to the daunting numbers, take a look at where he ranks offensively:

On Base %: .370 (8th)
Slugging: .585 (4th)
OBPS: .956 (4th)
Runs Scored: 95 (1st)
Hits: 145 (7th)
Total Bases: 281 (2nd)
Doubles: 34 (2nd)
Home Runs: 34 (2nd)
RBI: 100 (1st)
Runs Created: 104 (2nd)
Adjusted Batting Wins: 4.0 (6th)
Extra Base Hits: 68 (1st)
Time On Base: 201 (3rd)
Offensive Win %: .739 (3rd)
Sac Flies: 7 (4th)
AB per HR: 14.1 (7th)
RE24: 46.63 (1st)
WPA: 4.7 (2nd)


Mike Trout: Last years MVP and the front runner for most of the summer, until August, Trout has been playing like he isn’t from this planet. He is going to garnish a lot of votes again this year, I expect him getting 2nd place for a 3rd time in his four year tenure in the MLB. Mostly because of where his team sits, and where his WAR has been since he stepped onto Angel Stadium of Anaheim, he has lead the MLB in WAR since his rookie tour, posting a 10.8 WAR in 2012, 9.3 in 2013 and 7.9 in 2014.  A lot of people will argue that this is the most important statistic when it comes to overall evaluation of a ball player, how much does he help your team, and for Mike Trout, he helps, he helps out A LOT. Yet, he still strikes out a lot, and has been slumping really bad this August. It’s going to be a month he will use to fuel him for the future, he can always look back at his .205/.333/.321 slash lines and remember what it was like to play at that low of a level, and knowing Mike, he will be humbled, knowing that he has the talent he does and is able to come out of a slump of this proportion.

But prior to this slide, he was definitely making it a hard decision to discount Donaldson and Cruz for MVP. Especially when you think about his defense, before the baseball world had trout, we were watching the spectacular plays in center field by the likes of Adam Jones, and Carlos Gomez, but now we seem to not think of those guys when someone brings up the Center Field position, and instantly all of our heads will go to Mike Trout. He’s this era’s Ken Griffey Jr without the HR numbers and hits from the right side. I don’t think we need to post the fancy defensive numbers to know that no one on the ball field plays their position better than Mike Trout… Well, maybe the platinum glove winner Andrelton Simmons could make that argument. But look at Trouts offensive numbers and where he ranks across the MLB:

Offensive WAR: 6.8 (1st)
On Base %: .394 (3rd)
Slugging: .586 (3rd)
OBPS: .979 (3rd)
Runs Scored: 80 (5th)
Total Bases: 260 (3rd)
Home Runs: 33 (4th)
Walks: 64 (4th)
Runs Created: 103 (3rd)
Adjusted Batting Wins: 4.6 (2nd)
Extra Base Hits: 59 (3rd)
Time on Base: 204 (1st)
Offensive Winning %: .762 (2nd)
WPA: 3.9 (4th)

The Youth Movement Taking Baseball By Storm

In the midst of a division race Friday night Bryce Harper hit his 30th home run of the season for the Washington Nationals, becoming one of seven players in the major leagues with 30 this year. Harper is only 22 and has not reached his ceiling yet, and is quickly already becoming one of the best players in baseball and a legitimate MVP candidate.

Joined by Bryce Harper at the top is 24 year old Mike Trout, who has hit 33 home runs this year. Trout has been off the chart for the Los Angeles Angels and is likely on his way to winning his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award. The Trout vs Harper debate will be around for years to come, but there are many other young superstars in the game that should be getting fans’ attention during this exciting season.

Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies is only 24 years old, but leads the National League with 86 runs batted in and has hitting 29 home runs on the season. The 24 year old third baseman might not even be the best young player at that position, with 23 year old Manny Machado also having a prolific year and Kris Bryant learning the ropes for the Chicago Cubs.

The 2015 season has been taken over by young players led by Trout, Harper, Machado and Arenado and baseball is seeing a movement that will make the game more exciting for years to come. In the national league 24 years olds Shelby Miller, Gerritt Cole and Michael Wacha have all put up great years and all have ERAs under 3 for the season. Wacha’s teammate for the Cardinals, Carlos Martinez, is only 23 years old and has a 2.59 ERA on the season for the St. Louis ball club.

Over in the American League Sonny Gray has dominated hitters and is leading the league in ERA at 2.06. At 25 years old he has a good shot at winning his first CY Young award for the Oakland Athletics. Gray has been overpowering and leads the league in ERA, WHIP and BAA.

In Houston we are seeing the emergence of a 20 year old shortstop that might already be the best at his position in baseball. Carlos Correa has been on fire since being called up by Houston this year and has 14 home runs in 227 at bats, good for a .537 Slugging percentage on the year. Correa has been a catalyst for the Houston ball club and is a big reason why the Astros are winning the AL West.

In Minnesota 22 year old slugging third baseman Miguel Sano has hit seven home runs and ten doubles in 125 at bats and is hitting .280 for the season. He is joined by 21 year old center fielder Byron Buxton, who when healthy, is one of the most exciting players in baseball and is a top prospect.

Giancarlo Stanton has not played since June 26, but is still tied for fourth in the National League with 27 home runs on the year. Stanton at 25 years old has more power than any player in the big leagues, and is joined by Jose Fernandez as two of the most exciting players in the game.

Over in Chicago the Cubs have a team stocked with young talent headed by 23 year olds Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler. At the age of 23 Bryant is already tenth in the majors in walks and has been as good as advertised. However as good as Bryant has been, he is not even the best young player on his team with the way that Kyle Schwarber has been swinging the bat since being called up.

Schwarber is a 22 year old catcher that is hitting .313 with 8 home runs in 112 at bats for the Cubs. He has been phenomenal and with Schwarber, Bryant, Soler and 21 year old Addison Russell the Cubs have their own young all-star roster.

In Los Angeles 23 year old Joc Pederson has had an impressive rookie campaign, hitting 23 long balls on the year for the first place Dodgers. Pederson is joined by 24 year old Yasiel Puig, who has had a down year, but still has managed to hit 10 home runs and when he is in the zone is one of the most dangerous hitters.

All around baseball young players are stepping up and making an impact for teams and the tide is changing in the major leagues. A game that was once dominated by veterans is being pushed aside as the exciting young superstars get their chance at glory and with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper at the helm, baseball is in great shape for years to come.

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Are We Witnessing the Greatest Ever?

Every baseball fan, if asked, has a different player that they believe may be the greatest in the history of the game. Some are very deserving, some are a little bizarre, and some are just plain silly. Taking away the absurdity of some people who truly believe their favorite player is the best to ever step in between the chalk, a few names stand above the rest when you look back into the beauty of yester-year.

You could go as far back as possibly the best pure hitter at the turn of the century, Honus Wagner. Others, moving ahead to right at the end of Wagner’s career, believe the Great Bambino, Babe Ruth is the best player of all time. Still, others may move forward a few decades later and bring up names such as Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays. If one was so inclined, they could even go with a pitcher, such as the winningest pitcher in the game’s history, Cy Young, or the strikeout master, Nolan Ryan.

All of these players were sure fire, first ballot Hall of Famers, and deserving to be mentioned in the same breath together as the greats of the game. Personally, the best player that I got to watch (I’ll exclude players that came before my time, although they are some of the greatest in history) was Albert Pujols in his prime. The Machine was absolutely untouchable, hitting .300 or better in ten straight seasons.

However, I truly believe that in the next few seasons I’ll be able to say that Pujols will be surpassed as the greatest I’ve witnessed, and a new king of the 21st century will be crowned.

When it’s all said and done, newly turned 24-year-old Mike Trout may be the greatest player of my generation, and could move into the ranks of baseball’s elite. You probably think I’m crazy. Trout in the same breath as Mays, Ruth, Aaron? That’s madness. Well right now it may be, but that’s the beauty of Trout. He’s still so young.

Let’s run through a couple of numbers real quick. 131 homeruns, 130 doubles, 376 RBI’s, a .305 career batting average. Those are some simply stellar numbers from the young gun from Millville. Now, of course, they don’t mean a whole lot out of context right now. He’s still over 600 homeruns away from reaching Barry Bond’s record, and nearly 1900 RBI’s away from matching Hank Aaron’s historic feat.

But again, it all goes back to being so young for Trout. At 24-years-old, and only playing in his fourth full season in the big leagues, Trout is averaging nearly 32 homeruns a season in those four years.

The numbers continue to get better, however, as Trout has reached his previous homerun total, and continues to get better. He’s already hit 33 this year, and is on pace to crush 49 for the season. Another 16 would give him 147 for his career before he turns 25. Again taking away his first 40 games, Trout will then be on pace to hit 36 homeruns a season.

If he were to find a way to continue to hit that trend year in and year out, Trout would be closing in on his 500th homerun by his 35th birthday. Of course, 500 is a long way from 762, but, and this is a big but, Trout’s number should continue to increase for the next few seasons, as a pace of 40-45 homeruns a season a very manageable.

By the time Trout’s illustrious career may come to an end, hopefully many many years from now, his number’s could stand right amongst the legends of the game. A player that can hit, hit for power, run (he’s already stolen over 100 bags in his career), field (nearly 1500 putouts) and throw, comes around once or twice in a generation.

Our grandfathers and fathers saw Mantle and Mays, Aaron and Schmidt, but we as a generation will not be without our superstars, and at the forefront of our charge, for years to come I may add, and his name is Michael Nelson Trout, a young kid from Millville, NJ, who still finds himself rooting for the Phillies from time to time.

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Making The Case for Dallas Kuechel Winning AL MVP

The Houston Astros have had a magnificent year and are atop the AL West with a 60-49 record, two games over the second place Los Angeles Angels. The Astros have a lot of young talent but were still not expected to compete until 2016 or 2017, but they have a good chance of winning their division this year.

A big reason why the Astros have been so good is their number one starter, Dallas Kuechel. Kuechel has been awesome this year and is tied for the AL lead in wins at 13, is third in ERA at 2.35, and is second in WHIP at 0.99. In a year where Miguel Cabrera has been hurt and not many players besides Mike Trout have stood out on good teams, Kuechel has a legitimate shot at winning the American League Most Valuable Player.

The 27 year old Kuechel is having his best season as a pro and was the starting pitcher for the American League in the all-star game and has been the best player on the Astros ball club all year. Drafted in 2009 from Arkansas in the 7th round, Kuechel reached the major leagues in 2012 and had his first very good year last year going 12-9 with a 2.93 ERA on the season.

The Astros were expected to go through a growing pains process this year, but instead led by their staff ace they have the third best record in the American League, which is something that few could have predicted. Kuechel has been the biggest reason for the Astros success and has led the Astros young pitching staff from the start.

The lefty has been consistent all year and has twice won the AL pitcher of the month and also has helped to save the Astros bullpen having thrown three complete games on the year. Mike Trout has been the best player in baseball this year, but when you look at how valuable one player has been to their team it is hard to say that anyone has been more valuable than Kuechel has been for the Astros.

Without Kuechel there is no question that the Astros would have struggled mightily this year. The Angels would be hurt without Mike Trout, but they still have a quality lineup led by Albert Pujols whereas Houston is mostly a young and inexperienced ball club. It is tough to give the MVP award to a player that only pitches every five days, but Kuechel has been dominant and is top ten in virtually every single pitching category.

The Astros will make the playoffs and with Kuechel pitching game one in a playoff series they will be a tough team to beat. They might not make it to the World Series this year, but they will be the team to beat in the AL in the next few years.

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All Star Week For The Jersey Boys.

Two New Jersey natives highlighted All Star Week in Cincinnati.
Todd Frazier – Toms River South H.S.
Mike Trout­ – Millville Senior H.S.

The culmination of All Star Week was the actual game. It had plenty to live up to after the thrilling and fast paced home run derby that preceded it on Monday.

No worries. The Reds #FranchiseFour, as voted on by the fans, took the field before the game. It included hall of famers Barry Larkin, Johnny Bench, and Joe Morgan, and wait for it…Pete Rose. Pete, who was also part of the Fox pregame show, got an emotionally charged ovation from the hometown crowd. A nice and warm moment for Rose and the fans of Cincinnati.

Want more? During the game, Mike Trout was the lead off batter against Zack Greinke. Trout did Trout and Bo Jackson things by leading off the game with a line drive home run to right.

Bo was the last to turn the trick with a blast to centerfield in Anaheim (1989). Yes, Joe Buck said San Francisco during the broadcast, but that’s just him not being correct again. Wade Boggs was batting second and made it back-to-back homers back then. You may remember, if you’re pushing 40+, that president Ronald Reagan was in the broadcast booth with Vin Scully for the first inning of that 1989 All-Star Game.

This year, the second batter was Josh Donaldson and he walked. Greinke then pitched to his 1.39 ERA by striking out Albert Pujols and Nelson Cruz before inducing an inning ending pop up to LoCain. Adam Jones and Salvador Perez went down swinging against Greinke in his second inning of work. Greinke became the first pitcher to strikeout four in an All Star game since the Red Sox Pedro Martinez in 1999.

Bottom 2nd
Jhonny Peralta singled to right against Dallas Keuchel with two outs to score Goldy to tie the game at one.

Top 5th
Another Dodger pitcher was summoned. This time it was Clayton Kershaw. Prince Fielder pinch hit for Nelson Cruz which set up a lefty-lefty matchup. Fielder singled to left scoring Trout. Lorenzo Cain followed with an RBI double scoring Albert Pujols. 3-1 AL.

Top 6th
The Mets Jacob deGrom stuck out the side on just ten pitches which was an all-star first when considering just needing ten pitches to wipe out Stephen Vogt, Jason Kipnis, and Jose Iglesias

Bottom 6th
The National League got a run back on a solo homer by Andrew McCutchen against Chris Archer.

Top 7th
The Brewers Francisco Rodriguez allowed a couple runs for the NL. Manny Machado doubled in Brock Holt and Prince sac flied in Machado for the AL’s fifth run.

Top 8th
Brian Dozier took Mark Melancon deep to left center field for a home run. AL with a 6-1 lead.

Top 9th
The Reds Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in front of the home crowd. 12 of his 14 pitches eclipsed 100+ mph. The AL stuck out 15 times, the most by a team in an All-Star game that didn’t go extra innings.

Bottom 9th
A Brandon Crawford sac fly to score Ryan Braun cut the AL lead to 6-3, but that was the final.

Trout was named the game’s MVP for the 2nd year in a row. It’s the first time that’s happened. He chose the truck this year. Last year he took the sports car which he says sits in his garage and anybody can use it, but it’s still his. Statistically, Trout has hit for the cycle in the All-Star game.

Total is up and he’s 5-10, his 4th hit was a double last year, in his four All Star appearances.

David Price got the win for pitching a scoreless fourth. Clayton Kershaw was the losing pitcher.

Oh that Home Run Derby
Unless your power was out like the Todd Frazier household, then you probably saw or heard the Reds slugger thrill the home folks by winning the Home Run Derby 15-14 in walk-off fashion during bonus time vs Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson.

According to John Fay in his Cincinnati Enquirer article Frazier had to re-watch what he accomplished on his cell phone and had to shower at the hotel where his relatives were staying because the power was out at his home after the Derby.

The smile on Frazier’s face as he won each of his three rounds on his final swing still is a sight a see.

Frazier2_JeffRoberson_AP

Todd Frazier embraces teammate Aroldis Chapman after winning the HR Derby. Photo: Jeff Roberson/AP

Frazier and his brother Charlie used a quick pace throughout the night in an event that featured slightly revised rules because of panic about the poor weather in the Cincinnati area. It was 4-minute at bats, as many swings as you could muster, one :45 time out per round to catch your breath, and :30 of bonus time is you hit at least two-425 foot homers.

Pederson was up to the task and streaky. A triple check of the DVR confirms Pederson hit four consecutive homers on two occasions. He also hit six consecutive homers on two occasions.

In the finals, Joc went 0-7 before rattling off six straight. Following an 0-5 steak that was sandwiched around a timeout at 2:15, he hit four in-a-row. Pederson finished regulation time just 3-14. A fourth ball reached the stands, but apparently it was aided by a fan reaching over the wall for the grab.

In bonus time Pederson was just 1-6 to get to 14 homers spanning 42 hacks.

Frazier had last licks and was 5-15 to start the final. It included a three homer streak against the back drop of Chris Berman’s making Frank Sinatra references because Todd enjoys Old Blue Eyes. Frazier took a time out at 2:35. He continued with five unsuccessful swings. At 2:01 he began an 8-14 stretch which included back-to-back homers twice to bring his total to 13. Needing one to tie he failed twice before tying Pederson at 14 with ten seconds remaining. His last two swings fell short of victory.

The ToddFather still had 30 seconds of bonus time and his brother made an offering his bat could refuse. It was a victorious first swing. Total it up and Frazier took 1 pitch and slammed 15 homers in 40 swings.

HR Derby Final
h=Home Run, 0=No HR, t=took pitch

Joc Pederson (14)
Regulation – 0000000hhhhhh00 (TO 2:15) 000hhhh0h000h0000h000
Bonus – 0h0000

Todd Frazier (15)
Regulation – 00h00h00hhh00000t0000 (TO 2:01) h00h0hh0hh0h0h00h00
Bonus – h

The event was a director’s nightmare as hitters were loading up right after the ball would land. This lead to missing out on some of the swings. Even when going to a split screen it was usually included the competitor looking on instead of an ISO of the batter, but I digress.

Frazier was the first player to win the event in his home park since the Cubs Ryne Sandberg hit 3 home runs in 1990’s one round tournament at Wrigley Field.

Frazier joins Dave Parker (1985-Metrodome) and Eric Davis (1989-Anaheim) as Reds to win the HR Derby.

Here’s how Frazier and Pederson got to the final showdown.

Quarterfinals
Josh Donaldson hit a walk off HR with :14 left in regulation to beat Anthony Rizzo 9-8.
Todd Frazier hit a walk off HR on his first swing of bonus time to beat Prince Fielder 14-13.
Joc Pederson hit a walk off HR with 1:05 left in regulation to beat Manny Machado 13-12.
Albert Pujols hit a walk off HR at the regulation buzzer to beat Kris Bryant 10-9. I had Albert with 11 home runs, but I believe he had one taken away that must have been changed from a HR to a foul ball to left.

Semifinals
Todd Frazier homered on his final two swings of regulation to beat Josh Donaldson 10-9.
Joc Pederson hit three homers during bonus time to get to 12. Albert Pujols only hit a single home run in bonus time and lost 12-11 to Joc.

All-Star Futures Game
The festivities on the field began back on Sunday afternoon when the U.S. squad clobbered the World team 10-1. It was the sixth straight win for the U.S. team.

Mets outfielder Michael Conforto had a couple hits and threw out a runner at the plate.

Cubs’ catching prospect Kyle Schwarber, Middletown, Ohio native, swatted a two-run triple in the third inning and was named the All-Star Futures Game MVP. He previously had a 6-game cup of coffee with the Cubs in mid-June while serving as a DH during interleague games against the Indians and Twins. He was 8-22 back then with a four-hit game, a home run, and six RBI.

Pirates first baseman Josh Bell hit a two-run homer in the fourth.

Nationals shortstop Treat Turner showed off his wheels with a double and triple.

Nationals 20-year old RHP Lucas Giolito started the game for Team USA and blew smoke over two scoreless innings. PitchFX had the heater averaging 96.3 mph.

What follows the Futures Game on Sunday is the Legends And Celebrity Softball Game which gets televised after the HR Derby.

Let’s just say Snoop Dogg had a blast. Among other things he was called safe at second base after replay review confirmed a missed tag. He also dove over the outfield wall and pitched.

Former Red Paul O’Neill participated, but was wearing a Yankees hat.

Aaron Boone and Sean Casey thrilled the home town crowd with 3 home runs apiece. Casey also caught a Josh Donaldson foul ball in the left upper deck during the HR Derby.

Bengals QB Andy Dalton launched a couple home runs, which not doubt brought out haters to note he might be a better softball player than NFL quarterback.

Vladimir Guerrero launched four home runs and won the MVP award.

AL 25 (Vlad’s team), NL 21 (Snoop’s team)…62 combined hits.

Now what are we supposed to do until games resume on Friday?

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Hot and Cold Stretches…But Frost Brewed Rockies

Seldom deployed Wilin Rosario scores the Rockies’ loan run in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the Angels. (photo courtesy: Jae C. Hong/AP)

Baseball is a series of stretches. The kind the players do on the field before games and the kind we notice when glancing at the standings.

I’m not here to analyze the benefits of dynamic warm up stretches that involve constant movement or to compare them to the static 20-30 second stretches where players sometimes appear to be just going through the motions.

I’m going to discuss those stretches in the standings where teams run hot or cold. For instance, the Washington Nationals had a recent stretch where they were 11-2. On the flipside the ice cold, frost brewed and usually rained out Colorado Rockies are going through a tough stretch. They have lost eleven games in a row following Wednesday night’s 11th inning loss at the Trout Farm. The Rockies’ Corey Dickerson got all fouled up in left field by badly misplaying and then airmailing the throw to the plate on the Albert Pujols walk-off sac fly. Mike Trout did Trout things with two-stellar defensive plays . He robbed a Tulo homer in the 10th and turned a key double play to keep the game tied in the 11th. We all know he’s been have a hot stretch since 2012.

I’m making a habit of breaking the season down into ten 16-game stretches. It’s yields a 2+ week sample size and is relatable to the number of games played in an NFL season. 10-6 suggests playoff contender, while 6-10 means mediocre.

Earlier this week the season moved past the 20% mark (32 games) for almost all teams. Only the White Sox (14-17) and Rockies (11-19), because of four Coors Field weather postponements in May, have failed to play 20% of their games. Most teams have since passed the 32 game mark, but a couple charts hopefully illustrate my point as the season continues to get broken down into tenths with the use of sixteen. Here’s what has changed since the 16-game mark (10%) I documented a few weeks ago.

AL East
Sixteen games into the season the entire division was in the 7-9 to 9-7 range. Since that time the New York Yankees, who were 9-7, put together an 11-5 mark. The Red Sox’s 9-7 start was followed by 6-10 mediocrity. The Rays, Blue Jays, and Orioles have fallen in the 7-9 to 9-7 range during both stretches. The win totals for New York reflect that the first place Yankees suddenly found some offense. You may have seen that Teixeira is homering and Jacoby Ellsbury is constantly on base.

AL Central
Sixteen games into the season the Kansas City Royals (12-4) and Detroit Tigers (11-5) were the top two teams in the American League. Both teams just completed an 8-8 stretch. The Torii Hunter Twins are the team in the division that has been surging. Minnesota had a league best 12-4 stretch following a 6-10 opening to the season. The White Sox has been ho-hum with stretches of 7-9 and 7-8. The Indians have been consistently mediocre by being the only AL team to go 6-10 during both 16-game stretches. There is the silver lining because Corey Kluber finally got a win on Wednesday after hurling an 8-inning, 1-hit, 0 walk, 18 strikeout domination of the St. Louis Cardinals. Cody Allen also refrained from allowing runs to pick up a clean save in the 2-0 win.

AL West
The Houston Astros led the west with at 9-7 start while the Rangers got out of the gate at 6-10. The Astros then went 11-5 with the Athletics slumping to a 4-12 mark following their 8-8 start. The Angels, Mariners and Rangers settled in with 8-8 marks over their second set of sixteen games. The Astros season high seven game lead is now down to four.

2015AL_32+games

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NL East
Harvey’s Mets (13-3) had the best record in baseball after the first sixteen games. What followed was a 7-9 mark. Can’t win them all. The Harper Nationals (7-9) and Dee Gordon Marlins (5-11) showed progress by going 10-6 of late. The Braves have been super not exciting with 8-8 and 7-9 stretches. The Phillies have been consistently bad by being the only NL team to go no better than 6-10 consecutively with marks of 5-11 and 6-10.

NL Central
The Matt Carpenter Cardinals are the only team in MLB to win 11+ games in both 16-game stretches. They started 12-4 and followed it up with an 11-5 stretch. The Brewers were a dreadful 3-13 to begin the year, but then went 8-8. The Cubs, Pirates and Reds have all post 7-9 to 9-7 stretches, which is to say they haven’t caught fire yet because the Cardinals won’t allow it.

NL West
The Joc Pederson Dodgers are the only team other than the Cardinals to win 10+ game in each of their two sixteen game stretches. They were 10-6 followed by a Twins-like 12-4 stretch. The Giants were a medicore 6-10 to start, but recently compiled a 10-6 stretch. The Padres started 10-6, but like the DBacks were only 7-9 over the next sixteen games. The Rockies began the year 9-7, but have been the worst team in MLB over the second set of sixteen games. Their 11-game losing streak is a significant chunk of their current a 2-12 stretch. They’ve only played 30 games so their math is incomplete.

2015NL_32+games

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In conclusion, the Cardinals and Dodgers have been very consistent to start the season, which explains why both are first place clubs with at least 5-game leads. The Nationals caught fire of late and as a result are hanging with the Mets, who were almost unbeatable to begin the season.

The Yankees and Astros have been steady, but surprising first place clubs. The Royals and Tigers were strong starters, but have been joined by the Twins to make it a three team AL Central race in mid-May.

It will be interesting to see where all the teams stack up at the end of May following another sixteen game sample size.  The panic button should be fully operational by Memorial Day for teams off to slow starts. Will the Rockies be the first team to hit that button and trade star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to a contender? If so, package him in bubble wrap so his arrives healthy at his next destination.

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2015 MLB Opening Day-Late Home Runs and Shutouts

Sunday’s Opening Night and Monday’s Opening Day have come and gone, but the best part is we get to do it all over again on Tuesday and then again the next day all the way through October. How cool is that? The Sunday Night/Monday Opening Day turned out to be the first time in MLB history that six teams posted a shutout. Five other teams only scored a lone run. If you prefer offense there were a couple game deciding home runs and a few blowouts.

Top 3 games from Monday
San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers

Matt Kemp returned to Dodger Stadium as a Padre. This week when you can’t figure out where a certain player went this offseason the safe guess is that he’s probably on the Padres. They made some moves.

Clayton Kershaw allowed a few runs over six innings, but struck out nine. Matt Kemp had a couple hits and drove in all three of the Padres’ runs. Adrian Gonzalez had 3-hits and a homer for the Dodgers.

Tied at 3 in the bottom of the 8th, the Dodgers turned to J-Roll with Joc Pederson and Andre Ether on base. Rollins came through with a 3-run homer to right. It was Rollins fourth career Opening Day home run as a shortstop. Since 1900 that total is exclusive to him. Rollins also homered on Opening Day last season when with the Phillies.

The Dodgers 6-3 win was their 5th straight on Opening Day. The Padres have lost 13 of their last 17 games at Chavez Ravine dating back to 2013. It’s a figure they will need to improve upon if they plan to pursue the pennant.

Pittsburgh Pirates at Cincinnati Reds

Francisco Liriano (7 IP, 2 ER, 7 K) and Johnny Cueto (7 IP, 0 ER, 10K) were locked in a 2-0 contest through seven innings. Reds’ reliever Kevin Gregg gave away the lead when Andrew McCutchen homered to center to tie the game at 2.

The Pirates turned to Tony Watson who was incredible in a setup role during 2014. Watson stuck out pinch hitter Chris Dominquez, but then Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto singled. The Todd Father took it from there. Frazier delivered a 3-run homer that gave the Reds a 5-2 lead which Aroldis Chapman would preserve.

Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics

The Athletics’ Sonny Gray became the first pitcher since the Indians’ Bob Lemon in 1953 to throw 8 IP and allow one hit or fewer on Opening Day. Gray walked just one and struck out three. The Rangers lone hit was by left fielder Ryan Rua in the 8th. The A’s Ben Zobrist and Stephen Vogt hit big flies. The Athletics snapped a 10-game Opening Day losing streak with an 8-0 win.

Here are some notable performances from the rest of opening day.

THE OTHER SHUTOUTS

Cardinals at Cubs

The season got underway Sunday night at Wrigley Field where in hindsight it reads like the best course of action would have been to go to the restroom before the game and then not drink any fluids during the Cubs 0-13 performance with runners in scoring position.

New Cubs’ lefty Jon Lester, who only threw 98 total pitches his spring wasn’t in mid-season form. He stuck out six, but only lasted 4.1 innings. Lester allowed three runs on eights hits and two walks.

The Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright struck out six and walked none over six scoreless innings in the Cardinals 3-0 victory. The J-Hey Kid had a couple doubles and a steal during a 3-hit night in his Cardinal debut.

Minnesota Twins vs Detroit Tigers

The Tigers’ J.D. Martinez carried over his 2014 career year to 2015 by hitting the first home run of the young MLB season with a 2nd inning dinger off Phil Hughes. Three batters later Alex Avila took Hughes deep for a 2-run home run. Tigers’ lefty David Price provided 8.2 IP of scoreless baseball with 5 strikeouts and no walks in the 4-0 win.

Colorado Rockies vs Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers’ Kyle Lohse built a “snowman” by allowing 8 runs over 3.1 IP. The Rockies got three hits from Tulo and Nolan Arenado. Arenado and Corey Dickerson both homered and drove in four runs. 10-0 Rockies as Kyle Kendrick hurled seven scoreless innings with six strikeouts and no walks. Ryan Bruan left the game in the 5th with a sore right side. It was the first time since 1911 that an NL team won an opening day shutout by 10 or more runs.

Boston Red Sox vs Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies’ Cole Hamels served up batting practice to the Red Sox by allowing four home runs. Dustin Pedroia hit two home runs in a game for the first time since 2011. New Red Sox left fielder Hanley Ramirez also went yard twice (Hamels, Diekman). It was the first time in franchise history the Red Sox have had two players hit two home runs on Opening Day. The last Red Sox player to have a 2-homer game on Opening Day was Carlton Fisk in 1973.

Young center fielder Mookie Betts also homered in the 8-0 Red Sox victory. Clay Buchholz went seven scoreless with nine strikeouts and one walk. Red Sox 8, Phillies 0.

Cleveland Indians vs Houston Astros

This one turned into a pitchers’ duel between the Indians’ Corey Kluber who carried a no hitter into the 6th and the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel. Both teams had just three hits. Kluber stuck out seven over 7.1 IP. George Springer and Jake Marisnick drove in runs against him. Keuchel went seven scoreless with four strike outs. Astros win 2-0.

EASY COAST BIAS

Blue Jays vs Yankees

The Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka threw the first pitch of Opening Day and struck out three of the first four batters he faced, but then the 3rd inning happened. A single and walk preceded a Jose Reyes sacrifice to 3rd that featured a Headley error to score a run, Russell Martin singled home both Devon Travis and Jose Reyes. Jose Bautista flied out, but then Edwin Encarnacion flied over the wall in left for a 2-run homer and 5-0 Blue Jays lead.

Blue Jays’ second baseman Devon Travis sprinted around the bases for his first career hit and homer in the 7th. Toronto won 6-1.

Baltimore Orioles vs Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays honored their late coach Don Zimmer by retiring his No. 66. Zimmer passed away last June and spent 65 years in baseball.

The Orioles’ Alejandro De Aza and Steve Pearce went yard against Chris Archer. Chris Tillman’s only run allowed over 6.2 IP was a solo homer by Even Longoria in the 7th. Orioles win 6-2.

New York Mets vs Washington Nationals

The Mets’ Bartolo Colon came up large, which isn’t hard for him to do as he’s well built. Six innings, eight strikeouts and only one walk. He only flaw was allowing a solo homer to Bryce Harper. Max Scherzer, who had a no-hit bid entering the sixth, struck out out eight over 7.2 IP, but allowed three unearned runs because Dan Uggla is a terrible second baseman. Following a misplayed pop up, Scherzer allowed Luca Duda to single home a couple runs in the 6th. Mets 3, Nats 1.

Atlanta Braves vs Miami Marlins

Braves’ new right fielder Nick Markakis drove home both runs in a 2-1 win saved by Jason Grilli. That Kimbrel guy is now in San Diego. The Marlins’ Henderson Alvarez (6 IP, 2 ER) and Braves’ Julio Teheran (6 IP, 1 ER) were solid. 

HEADING OUT MID-WEST & WEST

Chicago White Sox vs Kansas City Royals

Newly acquired Jeff Samardzija allowed five runs, including a home run to Mike Moustakas, over six innings for the Good Guys. New Royal right fielder Alex Rios had a 3-hit, 3 RBI day that included a home run against Kyle Drabek. Yodano Ventura allowed only a run (Jose Abreu HR) over 6+ IP before he left the game with a right thumb cramp. Royals 10, White Sox 1 

Los Angeles Angels vs Seattle Mariners

Mike Trout took King Felix deep in his first at bat on Opening Day for the 2nd straight season. King Felix was otherwise dominant as he stuck out 10 over 7 IP with one walk. Trout stuck out in his other three at bats, but robbed Logan Morrison of a home run in the 8th. Mariners win 4-1.

San Francisco Giants vs Arizona Diamondbacks

Madison Bumgarner went seven innings with the only damage against him being a Mark Trumbo RBI triple. Joe Panik and Angel Pagan had 3-hit nights for the Giants who held a 5-1 lead entering the 8th when Diamondbacks’ pinch hitter Jake Lamb cleared the bases with a 3-run double against Sergio Romo. Santiago Casilla was perfect in the 9th to preserve the 5-4 victory for the defending champs.

Cactus Memories, Reggie’s A Hit, Astros No Hit

Mr. October also hangs out in March.

(Photo: AP)

Dating back to 2003, I’ve attended the Cactus League for a total of six seasons with either my brother or wife alongside me. However, I haven’t been to Arizona for spring training since 2010. I highly recommend adding that trip to the bucket list. Almost all the parks are close to each other making for easy commutes. A good desert wind also makes for a high run scoring environment.

I don’t advise taking your 3-month old daughter if you have any fear of getting stuck in the middle of a foul ball fracas. I’m on hiatus from this adventure until at least next year, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about the cool experience of spring training with its laid back attitude and pace. Bonus points are awarded if you also hang out in Scottsdale to watch some of the NCAA tournament games.

Players are at arms reach and friendly when walking from the practice fields to the stadium and it’s just fun to see the most random players get their shot in a game after seeing the regulars give it a whirl for a few innings. The scorecard becomes unreadable in the the later innings especially after a second #89 – who most likely wandered over from the team’s minor league camp that day – enters the game in the 8th.

The side note stories to spring training also remind me how much fun baseball can be in the month of March. It’s no doubt highly stressful for some, like the relief pitchers you’ve never heard of blowing games in the late innings as they get their work. Wins and losses don’t really matter at this point so they can be forgiven. Oh sure, not every roster spot is set, but from the eyes of the superstars it’s all about searching for your timing at the plate and in the tee box. Here are some oddities and observations from the weekend. MLB.com’s Cut 4 just made me aware of the bees.

Sunday afternoon Yankees spring training instructor, or better yet, Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson autographed and wrote a get well note on a baseball and hand delivered it into the stands to two veteran ladies, who just seconds earlier had been dodging an errant Jose Lobaton bat that was on the loose during the Nationals-Yankees game. Jackson sat next to the fans to make sure they were OK and followed up on their condition later in the game.

A swarm of bees  took some time to attend and delay the Royals-Angels game in Tempe on Sunday. They must of wanted to see reigning AL MVP Mike Trout blast his 1st home run of the spring.

Rewinding to Saturday we find Bob Melvin’s friend Jim Harbaugh spending some time coaching 1st base for the Athletics during their game against the Angels. They both have a history that dates back to American Legion baseball. The NFL is in the throes of free agency beginning and Harbs is cracking jokes with the media about being aggressive on the base paths. Go figure.

FRIDAY

Back to reality where there was another fun story that occurred on Friday when the Mets’ Matt Harvey touched 99 on the gun in his first live game action in 17 months. 2 scoreless innings and 3 strikeouts vs the Tigers in his return from Tommy John surgery.

The White Sox top prospect, 22-year-old left-hander Carlos Rodon (2 IP, 1 H, 4 Ks) impressed vs the Padres. Performances like this will have him on the fast track to the South Side.

18-year-old Dodgers’ prospect Julio Urias is a left-hander who worked around 3 walks to record 2 strikeouts over 1.2 scoreless innings vs the Brewers. Urias dominated at High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2014 and figures to develop further in the minors during 2015 before maybe stating his case for a roster spot with the big club in 2016.

SATURDAY

The pitcher Chris Young signed with the Royals for 1-year. Young was the AL Comeback Player of the Year in 2014 while pitching effectively for the Mariners. He starts as a swingman on the Kansas City depth chart.

The Rangers’ depth chart learned it would be getting a workout as what Ross Ohlendorf does on a mound might matter (2 IP, 0 ER, 5K on Sunday vs Cubs). Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported Yu Darvish has been diagnosed with a sprained UCL. Darvish will now check with the Mets’ Dr. Altchek this week , but anybody who isn’t a doctor and has an opinion is guessing TJS is in Yu’s future.

Baseball America’s #1 prospect Kris Bryant hit his 1st spring HR for the Cubs. He figures to crush AAA pitching in Iowa until May and then it will be a race to see what happens first – Bryant arriving on campus or the centerfield bleachers at Wrigley being finished.

SUNDAY

Alex Rodriguez had a bloop ground rule double to shallow right field that kicked up the chalk and bounced into the stands. Rodriguez played third base and successfully defended a ground ball at The BOSS. Yes, Michael Kay referred to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa as The BOSS. Joe Girardi confirmed during the YES network broadcast that Masahiro Tanaka will make his first spring start on Thursday against the Braves. No word on when the MRI on Tanaka’s right elbow will be scheduled after the game. He opted for the nonsurgical approach after suffering a partial tear of his UCL last July. Tanaka came back to make two appearances last September, the 2nd of which was in the UH-OH category. Tanaka has reportedly felt good this spring and threw one of those simulated games on Saturday.

The Houston Astros closed out the weekend with a reminder that whether it’s March or October anything can and will happen in baseball. A 20-hit attack defeated the Tigers 14-9, but then their split squad – consisting of Jose Altuve, Colby Rasmus, Chris Carter, and Jason Castro – got no-hit by nine Atlanta Braves pitchers in a 2-2 ten inning tie. Cody Martin went the first two-innings, followed by Jim Johnson, Josh Outman, Brandon Cunniff, Ian Thomas, Mauricio Cabrera, Lucas Sims, Justin Jackson, and Jario Heredia all pitching no hit innings. A couple walks turned into a couple runs for the Astros on a couple groundouts in the 7th inning in case you were curious.

The One About Arbitration – Pay Raises For All

Trumbombs Set To Return In 2015

(Photo Courtesy: rantsports.com)

Arbitration hearings were scarce the last couple years. The owners prevailed in 2 of 3 cases in 2014 after no hearings were held in 2013. It was a bit different this February. 14 of the 175 arbitration eligible players reached a hearing. It was the most cases since 2001. During a salary arbitration case a three-person panel considers the filing amounts by both the player and the team. Evidence is presented by both sides and the end game is a decision on what salary the player will make for the upcoming season. Occasionally somebody’s feelings can get hurt. Teams went 8-6 vs the players in 2015. Here’s the breakdown expressed in millions.

2015Arbitration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s hard to feel bad for Mat Latos ($7.25 million in 2014). He was very effective last season, but only made 16 starts. He lost his case, but will still receive a $2.15 million raise as he moves from the Reds to the Marlins. The Pirates’ Neil Walker ($5.75 million in 2014) lost his case, but gets a $2.25 million bump in 2015. So is it that really losing? Mark Trumbo ($4.8 million in 2014) only hit 14 HRs in 88 games last season due to injury, but receives a $2.1 million raise this season. The chart also shows that Pedro Alvarez and Mike Minor won their cases despite subpar seasons.

Teams now have a 301-221 record vs the players since arbitration began in 1974. Hearings are not the only way to play the game. Players and teams exchange dollar amounts in January and this process can often lead to 1-year deals that hover around the mid-point. A compromise of sorts. Sometimes longer deals will be stuck to secure financial gains and to avoid the risk and hassle of arbitration hearings.

Reds’ catcher Devin Mesoraco ($525,000 in 2014) pounded the baseball over walls in 2014 and wanted $3.5 million this season as opposed to the Reds’ offer of $2.45 million. Both sides came to terms on a 4-year, $28 million dollar contract that locks up Mesoraco until he can become a free agent after the 2018 season. He’ll earn approximately $2.5, $5.0, $7.3, and $13.1 million each year over the life of the deal. A potential win-win for both sides as the Reds buy out the remainder of Meso’s arbitration years while he in turn gets financial piece of mind following his all star season of 25 HRs.

On the pitching side of arbitration eligibles, 3-year deals were crafted for both the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn (3-year, $22 million) and Red Sox Wade Miley (3-years, $19.25 million), who was traded from the Diamondbacks to the Red Sox last December. Lynn and the Cardinals never got to the point of exchanging figures as they got an extension ironed out before number swapping began. Miley was seeking $4.3 million compared to the Red Sox offer of $3.4 million. Both pitchers were making chump change in the $530,000 range during their third season and will be free agents at the conclusion of the current deals which buy out the remainder of their arbitration eligible seasons.

Fun for the player, but wait, there’s more. Let’s add in some additional definition to the word arbitration. You can see it can be a moderate get rich quick scheme prior to robbing the bank in free agency after season six. Even when a player loses his case, he wins a little, because it’s still a raise. Players are first eligible for arbitration after 3 to 5 years of Major League service. Players with less than 3 years of service can also get in on the action if they rank in the top 17 percent in their total service time category (Super Two) .  The service time percentage can be a moving target that generally falls between 2 years, 128 days and 2 years, 140 days of service. One year of service time is defined as 172 days. You can accrue service time for each day you are on the 25-man roster,  the 15-day or 60-day DL. It’s fantastic work if you can get it.

Sometimes teams will appear to an outsider as manipulating when they call up a player for the first time so that his service time clock won’t tick at a rate that allows the player to become Super Two eligible. Achieving that status allows a player to head to the arbitration table a year early which will cost team’s money. Every year there will be hot prospects where the fans, media and maybe the team behind closed doors will debate whether it makes financial sense to wait until maybe June to call up a “future star”. Kris Bryant of the Cubs will be a primary example for 2015. If he can help the Cubs contend now, then why wait to call him up just to save some money in a few years? MLB teams don’t use our wallets to pay players, well that’s not totally true, but they may have to consider these financial ramifications as they are trying to run a profitable business.

Here’s how the process can work on a grander scale when player success comes early. In 2010, the Giants’ Tim Lincecum was considered Super Two so he was eligible for salary arbitration just like his 3 to 5-year counterparts. He had made his debut on May 6th, 2007 and logged 24 starts that season before winning the NL Cy Young Award in 2008 and 2009. Those two Cy Young winning seasons were produced on a salary of $405,00 and  $650,000 respectively. Tim thought it would be a good idea to ask for a raise in 2010 that would pay him $13 million. The Giants said, “how about $8 million instead?”  The two sides avoided an arbitration hearing by agreeing to a 2-year, $23 million dollar contract for 2010-2011. The contract was a little over the mid-point ($10.5 million) with the Giants comprising more than Lincecum.

Following 2011, Lincecum, not yet a free agent, was arbitration eligible again. He requested $21.5 million while the Giants offered $17 million. They once again avoided a hearing and settled on a 2-year, $40.5 million contract for 2012-2013.

Lincecum regressed from his 2.74 ERA in 2011 to 5.18 and 4.37 marks the following two seasons, but when he finally became a free agent after the 2013 season he re-signed with the Giants for 2-years at $35 million for 2014-2015. Lincecum has contributed to 3 World Championships and no-hit the Padres in each of the last two seasons, but the 30-year old was last seen in the Giants’ bullpen dating back to last August 2014. Plans are for him to return to the rotation in 2015.

Meanwhile the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw was making $500,00 in 2011 (his 3rd season) when he won his 1st NL Cy Young Award with a 21-5, 2.28 ERA. In 2012, he avoided letting an arbitrator decide his financial faith by agreeing to a 2-year deal for $18.5 million. He then finished 2nd and 1st in that Cy Young thing. The Dodgers decided it might be best to keep Kershaw from reaching free agency after the 2014 season. They took care of his final arbitration year and the next six seasons by awarding him a 7-year, $215 million deal last January. He returned the favor by winning the National League Cy Young and MVP award in 2014.

Wondering about Mike Trout? He won’t get any arbitration years. His contract was initially purchased by the Angels on 7/8/11. Trout made around $500,000 in each of his first two full seasons (2012-2o13) when he finished 2nd in the AL MVP race. Not yet eligible for arbitration, he was paid $1 million in 2014 which doesn’t seem like a lot for what he had accomplished, but it was a record one-year salary for a pre-arbitration player. The Angels were working on a long-term deal at the time so by late March of 2014 Trout signed a 6-year, $144.5 million extension, won the AL MVP, and got the Angels back to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

The arbitration years are the bridge between dirt cheap (pre-arb seasons) and solid gold (free agency). Teams try to make the most of the financial control they can have over a player for six seasons, but do have the obligation to start paying up after season three. Stars who produce early on in their careers will command high salaries during the arbitration seasons, unless they can strike an even more lucrative long term deal, see Trout . The arbitration riches are still less than eventual free agency dollars unless a player significantly backslides during this time period, see Lincecum . Eventually teams may need to make a big money decision on a franchise player before the final arbitration season begins, see Clayton Kershaw . Unless it’s an international signing, see Jose Abreu , almost all players performing tremendous feats during their first three seasons do so for close to the league minimum and then the big paydays begin when a player, team, and a three-person panel analyze the body of work.

Cot’s Baseball Contracts is alway a valuable resource when money is involved.

Eric Stephen’s arbitration scoreboard on SB Nation  was a guide.

Information was also obtained from MLB Trade Rumors .

Baseball-Reference.com is always on speed dial.

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